Saturday, February 19, 2011
Good News vs. Christ-less Christianity
In the fifth video in his series on Christian witnessing, Go Fish, Andy Stanley raises a serious issue. In his sermon, “Muddy Water,” Stanley posits the proposition that most people who reject Christianity are not rejecting Christ, that in fact they may never have had a true and clear presentation of the Gospel of Christ. He says, rightly, that the Gospel is a simple message given in John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes on him shall have everlasting life.” God loved and gave. If any one believes he/she will receive the gift of Eternal life.
That is it! That is the Gospel, and the whole purpose for which Christ came into the world. Stanley contends that few people ever get to hear that message unencumbered by the scores of other issues that Christians throw at them: creationism vs. evolution, pre-destination vs. free will, pre-trib vs. mid-trib vs. post-trib, end-time predictions, abortion, gay marriage, etc.
And further, Stanley argues that the average Christian avoids talking to people about her/his faith because she/he doesn’t feel competent to explain or defend all those ancillary issues. There is nothing to "defend" about the Gospel. It merely needs to be declared, presented.
I agree with Stanley’s point. In fact I’ve wondered, sometimes, if followers of Christ should not find some way to identify themselves other than “Christian.” The designation, “Christian,” has become a tarnished label. That is a shocking thought. But there are “Christians” who reject the simple formula that Stanley indentifies, believing that mankind is capable of saving itself through humane behaviors. And there are "Christians," as Stanley points out, that have layered so many issues over the central Gospel message that it cannot be heard through the din of doctrinal argument.
I can’t prove that Genesis is a literal scientific record of creation. I don’t know if the rapture will come before, during, or after a period of tribulation. I don’t know which end-time guru has it right, or if any of them do. But I know that “God so loved the world that he gave his son so that all who believe on HIM shall receive everlasting life.” That is the good news that everyone deserves to hear – deserves the right to receive or reject.
It is completely understandable why many of our non-believing friends are repulsed by what they perceive as the political bigotry, arcane religious dogma, and bizarre spectacles that parade under the banner of Christianity. There may be a place in the life of the church for some of those things but there is no place for them in the presentation of the good news of salvation in Christ. We need to put Christ back into “Christian,” or quit using the term altogether. And equally as important, we need to put Christ back into our witness and toss out all those other things that get in the way.